Steven Hawe’s playing career featured four Bob Radcliffe Cup final appearances - but next weekend’s festive showpiece will mark something of a first for the current Loughgall joint manager.
Past preparations offered Hawe challenges both physical and mental in advance of the key trophy test.
In contrast, Hawe is faced with the task of preparing his players for this seasons’s Boxing Day meeting having had just one competitive game across the December schedule.
A combination of cup commitments and weather conditions has prevented the Villagers from lining out other than the December 5 victory against Trojans.
The Intermediate Cup tie with Moyola Park planned for tomorrow (Saturday) has now been postponed due to the opposition’s knockout date with Portstewart. As a result of that Irish Cup game taking priority, Loughgall must arrange a friendly game.
“As a player, I enjoyed a tough game leading up to a cup final as I felt it kept me sharp,” said Hawe, joint manager at Lakeview Park alongside Stephen Uprichard. “However, I am also a big believer in rest as a player.
“A free weekend is good as the season seems long enough for the lads, especially at this level with work commitments.
“A Saturday with the family or chance to relax away from football sometimes gives you a boost.
“But this is a different scenario and it comes down to managing everything as best we can ahead of the final.
“It comes down to trust and the players know how big a game it is and what the Bob Radcliffe Cup means to this club.
“It is a good bunch and I am sure they will do everything possible to prepare in the best way for Boxing Day.
“In terms of the management, we will use a friendly to keep everyone ticking over and the training sessions will prove important.
“Fitness is not the issue but you want some running to get the lungs going and strength-and-conditioning work is always important.”
Cup success against Armagh City on Boxing Day would hand Loughgall a boost for the second half of the season.
Hawe is hoping success in the transfer window can also provide an advantage.
“We have a few targets but it is still early days,” said Hawe. “A few faces can help freshen everything up for the last part of the season.
“But we also want to maintain the balance of the current squad.”